The District of Sooke, by fining the property owner, is forcing a family with two young children who live in a recreational vehicle on land they rent to leave.
Since September, Kris Hardy and Monique Seidler have lived on vacant land at 1935 Murray Rd. after travelling across Western Canada to Sooke in an epic journey that took three months with their two young boys, ages four and five.
“[The district] is trying to hinder our ability to live. It’s home to us,” Hardy said.
Seidler and Hardy loaded up their family into a 34-foot motorhome and left Manitoba in June after the couple lost their jobs.
Hardy said he couldn’t see much of a future in small-town Manitoba, and with the COVID pandemic getting progressively worse, they decided to head west.
“We took the opportunity to visit other parts of Canada, look for work, and kept to ourselves,” Hardy said.
“We knew the weather was going to get colder and colder. We knew we had to get as far west as we could go if we were going to live in the motorhome.”
The couple ended up in Sooke in the first week of September after the RV broke down at the side of the road. They waited more than a week for a mechanic to arrive. He never did.
But neighbourhood residents came out offering them meals, snacks and fruit. One even managed to fix the RV.
The family decided from the community’s reaction that Sooke was a place they would like to set down roots. They looked at campgrounds and RV parks where they could stay, but nothing was available.
They then started looking at private land and came across the vacant lot. The owner agreed to rent the property. Seidler and Hardy also agreed to clean up the area and keep trespassers, an ongoing problem for the landowner, off the land.
“It was a good mutual understanding. It was not a forever thing, just until having someplace to rent,” Hardy said.
But then a bylaw officer came knocking at the door.
The property owner was fined $200 by the district, and Seidler and Hardy were told they must leave. The landowner is fighting the ticket and goes to court on Monday (Dec. 14).
“The District is empathetic to this family. It is unfortunate that the property owners may have indicated such a rental was permissible after they had been informed on multiple occasions it was not. This leaves both the family and the Ddistrict in a difficult position,” Christina Moog, the district’s spokesperson, said.
“The district takes an education-first approach to reported bylaw infractions, providing reasoning for compliance and a means of how to comply. With zoning considerations, staff work with property owners to obtain compliance.”
Hardy said they received no warning before the landlord was fined but acknowledged other bylaw issues related to the property over the years.
Hardy said he reached out to bylaw asking for a reprieve until after Christmas.
The couple now exists on EI and CERB, profits from a book and a blog. They’ve also documented their travels on YouTube.
“We’re trying to do whatever we can to not rely on the government,” Hardy said.
“Still, our priority is our kids, obviously.”